Pray for The United Methodist Church!

If you’ve been following church-related news lately, you know The United Methodist Church is in turmoil. Some are even calling for schism, seeing no way out of the current mess.

The best thing we can do, though, at this point, is PRAY.

That’s what the Aldersgate Covenant is planning to do. They have called a gathering for May 16-17, 2014, which will take place at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. (I’m not able to attend; I keep hoping some or all of it will be webcast!)

I wrote in 2011, What The United Methodist Church Needs is nothing short of an awakening by the Holy Spirit. As I noted, John Wesley said …

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.

Wesley seems to indicate that survival of the organization isn’t the most important thing; being faithful to God and staying connected to God is.

I’m grateful for the UMC and I’m hopeful that God will revive us and make us a movement again. Here are a few posts I’ve written in recent years that come to mind …

What are your prayers for the UMC?

Prayers for the Church: Fruit

We bear fruit when we stay connected to Jesus!

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit” (John 15.5a, CEB).

We can’t produce fruit on our own. We produce fruit by staying connected to God. Jesus said, “you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me … Without me, you can’t do anything” (John 15.4,5b).

Jesus’ words also include a strong warning …

He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit … If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. (John 15.2,6)

Thankfully, God does everything possible to help us bear fruit. Jesus said, God “trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit” (John 15.2). Jesus also said, “My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples” (John 15.8). Fruit pleases God.

O God, thank you for all you are doing in and through your Church all around the world. Thank you for inviting us to participate in what you are doing!

Thank you, Lord, that you do not leave us to do the work in our own power. We rely on your power because without you, we can do nothing of eternal significance. We cannot bear fruit unless we stay connected to you!

Lord, we want to be a fruitful Church! Please help us to stay connected to you, to be faithful to you, and to follow the leading of your Spirit. As we do so, help us to bear much fruit for your kingdom, and for your glory! Amen.

(Here’s a list of things I’ve been praying for the Church: awakening, transformational leaders, urgency, hope, health, compassion, action, unity, power, favor, endurance, trust, discipline, courage, vision, provision, humble & hungry, patience & persistence, unpredictable & uncontrollable, receptive hearts, growing disciples, and movement).

Prayers for the Church: Movement

Last Sunday, I began a sermon series called Cultivating a Movement. It’s a series designed to help us put ourselves in a place where God can move in and through us.

The series will last several weeks. It won’t be an exhaustive list, and it’s certainly not intended to be a formula, because I don’t know the formula. But I began with Surrender because I believe movements begins with people who are fully surrendered to God!

O God, thank you for all you are doing, and for inviting us to participate in what you are doing in the world! Thank you for rescuing us from sin and death and for involving us in your ongoing rescue mission to save the world!

If your people will humbly pray, seek your face, and turn from their wicked ways, then you will hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7.14). O Lord, please do something unpredictable and uncontrollable. As we humble ourselves and seek you, you will move in and through us!

Lord, please use us. Use us to make your name great! We are here to serve you. We have entered into the ministry of Jesus, to the Father, through the Holy Spirit, on behalf of the world!

As we serve you, help us to rely on your power. As the Newsboys sing, “Let heaven roar. Let fire fall. Come shake the ground with the sound of revival!” (“God’s Not Dead”). As that happens, may we truly be a people among whom you can move. We thank you, in advance, for all you will do. May it be done all, and only, for your glory! Amen.

(Previous prayers for the Church include: awakening, transformational leaders, urgency, hope, health, compassion, action, unity, power, favor, endurance, trust, discipline, courage, vision, provision, humble & hungry, patience & persistence, unpredictable & uncontrollable, receptive hearts, and growing disciples).

Prayers for the Church: Growing Disciples

The Church requires followers of Jesus who are growing in every way more and more like Jesus!

One of the passages of Scripture that drives my understanding of ministry is Ephesians 4.11-16. In this passage, Paul describes church leadership in terms of equipping God’s people for ministry, and includes a phrase that I have come to love …

growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4.15, NLT)

That’s our goal, to grow in every way more and more like Jesus!

O God, thank you for loving the world so much that you gave your only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. Thank you for revealing your Son Jesus—the way, the truth, and the life—to us. Thank you for the gospel—Good News!

Forgive us for taking you for granted, for not being intentional about our relationships with you. Please forgive us for not growing more like Christ! And, please forgive those of us who are leaders for not forming and equipping your people for your work!

Help us to be intentional about our spiritual growth. With great discipline (being a disciple requires discipline!) help us to practice those spiritual disciplines that will enable us to grow in every way more and more like Jesus. Help us to simply put ourselves in a place where you can mold and shape us through your grace!

Thanks you again, O Lord, for inviting us to be in relationship with you and for all you are doing through your disciples! Amen.

(I invite you to pray with me for the Church. Previous prayers include: awakening, transformational leaders, urgency, hope, health, compassion, action, unity, power, favor, endurance, trust, discipline, courage, vision, provision, humble & hungry, patience & persistence, unpredictable & uncontrollable, and receptive hearts).

Moving From ASAP to ALAT!

One of my favorite books is The Circle Maker.

That should come as no surprise. I’ve written seven posts about the book (last one here, with links to the previous ones).

In the book, Batterson writes …

Maybe one of the reasons we get frustrated in prayer is our ASAP approach. When our prayers aren’t answered as quickly or easily as we would like, we get tired of circling. Maybe we need to change our prayer approach from as soon as possible to as long as it takes.

Batterson blogged further about this

You know the acronym: ASAP. It means “as soon as possible.” While I was writing The Circle Maker I realized that I was automatically attaching an ASAP to all of my prayers. Zero patience.

The biggest transformation in my personal prayer life has been to a totally different mindset: ALAT. What does it mean? As long as it takes … it involves raw determination. Zero quit.

Few qualities in prayer, and in life, are more important than patience, endurance, and perseverance. Let us learn to pray with zero quit. ALAT. As long as it takes!

Praying for the Church at Christmastime

What an exciting time! And, what an incredible opportunity for the Church as we celebrate Christmas—God’s rescue mission to save the world!

As the Church prepares to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and offer Christ, over the next few days, here’s what I find myself praying.

O God, thank you for your great love, and for sending your Son Jesus Christ to rescue the world!

Thank you for rescuing us and for calling us to be part of your rescue mission to save the world. During this season, please use your Church as never before to be a light, and a voice of hope, in a dark and hopeless world. Give us favor, and please use us to make your name great!

Lord, “enable your servants to speak your word with complete confidence” (Acts 4.29, CEB). “God’s kingdom isn’t about words but about power” (1 Corinthians 4.20, CEB), so please empower what we say and do so that it will breathe life into people’s hearts!

May people’s hearts be open to the work of your Spirit this Christmas season, especially as seekers attend worship services over the next few days. May our worship honor you, and may it transform all who attend, both followers and seekers!

Thank you, O God, for all you are doing this season. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in what you are doing in the world! Amen.

What are you praying this Christmas?

(I invite you to join me in praying for the Church. See previous prayers: awakening, transformational leaders, urgency, hope, health, compassion, action, unity, power, favor, endurance, trust, discipline, courage, vision, provision, humble & hungry, patience & persistence, unpredictable & uncontrollable, and receptive hearts).

The Lord is Great!

Recently, Adam Weber, pastor of Embrace Church (a United Methodist Church) posted a prayer on Twitter that has stuck with me …

This prayer, and this attitude, is essential for staying humble and hungry. Focusing on God’s greatness keeps us humble. God’s greatness keeps us wanting to know God better. You can see this attitude in John the Baptist, who said, “He must increase and I must decrease” (John 3.30, CEB).

The desire to make God’s name great also keeps us from building our own little kingdoms. If we stay focused on glorifying God, we will be less likely to seek glory for ourselves!

Interestingly, the phrase “The Lord is great!” appears eight times in the Psalms (in the Common English Bible). Of those occurrences, the phrase, “the Lord is great and so worthy of praise!” appears three times (Psalm 48.1, Psalm 96,4, and Psalm 145.3). The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!

If we know that the Lord is great, we are much more likely to trust him in every situation and to know that nothing is impossible with God. We are more likely to takes risks, to obey God, and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are more likely to live a life worthy of God’s call. No wonder the psalmist said, “Magnify the Lord with me! Together let us lift his name up high!” (Psalm 34.3, CEB).

How does God’s greatness inspire you to live for God?

Praying for the Church: Receptive Hearts

The Church must have people with receptive hearts!

In telling the parable of the soils, this is how Jesus described “good soil” …

The seed scattered on good soil are those who hear the word and embrace it. They bear fruit, in one case a yield of thirty to one, in another case sixty to one, and in another case one hundred to one. (Mark 8.20, CEB)

Unfortunately, good soil is only one of the four options Jesus highlighted. And, it was the only good one!

Our job as followers and witnesses of Jesus is to scatter seed, but we certainly want our seeds to find good soil, receptive hearts.

O God, thank you for the seeds that found their way into our hearts, and for the grace that allowed them to bear fruit in our lives!

May every heart in the Church be receptive to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We pray …

Examine me, God! Look at my heart! Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts! Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me, then lead me on the eternal path! (Psalm 139.23-24, CEB).

May your Word find good soil in our hearts so that we will continue grow “in every way more and more like Christ” (Ephesians 4.15, NLT) and so that we will follow wherever you lead!

Send your Spirit to go before us and to prepare the way in front of us. May people’s hearts be receptive to you so that we may bear much fruit for your kingdom, for your honor and glory! Amen.

(I invite you to pray with me for the Church. Previous prayers include: awakening, transformational leaders, urgency, hope, health, compassion, action, unity, power, favor, endurance, trust, discipline, courage, vision, provision, humble & hungry, patience & persistence, and unpredictable & uncontrollable).

Prayers for the Church: Unpredictable & Uncontrollable

The Church needs to give up control and let God be in charge. It’s his Church after all.

I read a prayer in The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson (see 5 Takeaways From “The Circle Maker”), which has stuck with me ever since I read it: “Lord, do something unpredictable and uncontrollable.”

It’s a scary prayer. But I believe it’s a necessary prayer for churches that truly want to be faithful and obedient, churches that want to make the biggest impact on the world possible!

Scripture says …

God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being. (2 Corinthians 2.9, quoting Isaiah 64.4, CEB)

O God, the Church is your idea. It belongs to you. You are the Head of the Church. You are Lord and Master and King, and we are your servants and followers. O Lord, do something unpredictable and uncontrollable!

You have called us to follow you and to engage in your mission in the world. You lead us out of our comfort zones. It’s often difficult and messy to participate in what you are doing in the world. O Lord, do something unpredictable and uncontrollable!

We don’t just want to go through the motions. We don’t want to “play church.” We want our lives and our service to make a difference for the cause of Christ. O Lord, do something unpredictable and uncontrollable!

Do whatever you need to do in us, Lord—in our hearts and in the Church—to make us a Church you can use. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us. Help us to be moldable and adaptable and nimble, willing to follow wherever you lead! O Lord, do something unpredictable and uncontrollable!

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen. (Ephesians 3.20-21, CEB)

Amen.

(I invite you to pray with me for the Church. Previous prayers include: awakening, transformational leaders, urgency, hope, health, compassion, action, unity, power, favor, endurance, trust, discipline, courage, vision, provision, humble & hungry, and patience & persistence).

Prayers for the Church: Patience & Persistence

The Church needs patience and persistence!

I invite you to pray with me for the Church as I continue my way through a series of prayer posts. See links to previous prayers below.

The Church needs patience because it usually takes time to experience transformation. It takes time to lead transformation and to shape (or reshape) a biblically-focused, missional culture!

The Church needs persistence as it engages in challenging ministry in an uncertain and difficult world.

O God, thank you for entrusting us with the awesome task of being the hands and feet of Jesus in a dark and broken world. Thank you for calling us to be a voice of hope!

Sometimes transformation happens quickly. But even overnight transformation is usually preceded by lots of prayer and seed-planting. Often the work is painstakingly slow. Please help us to be patient, trusting you to work in and through us. Help us trust that you are always at work, even if behind-the-scenes!

Whenever we encounter difficulty along the way, help us to be persistent, and to keep moving forward!

Encourage us to keep planting lots and lots of seeds and “not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6.9, CEB).

Thank you for your work among us. And thank you for inviting us to participate in what you are doing in the world! Amen.

(Previous prayers include: awakening, transformational leaders, urgency, hope, health, compassion, action, unity, power, favor, endurance, trust, discipline, courage, vision, provision, and humble & hungry).